O'Dwyer is being charged by the American federal government with criminal copyright infringement related to his former websites TVShack.net and TVShack.cc. The prosecutors allege that he was "involved in the illegal distribution of copyrighted movies and television programs over the Internet". As O'Dwyer resides in the United Kingdom, the United States' Justice Department asked for his extradition in May 2011 under the UK's Extradition Act 2003. The case resides in murky legal ground, however; O'Dwyer's defense team argues that American laws should not apply to a website hosted in the UK. They also argued that his TVShack websites "simply provided a link" to the content, rather than actually hosting and curating the offending material—essentially, they believe that the site functioned as an online service provider as envisioned under the American 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Describing O'Dwyer as a "clean-cut, geeky kid" and "precisely the kind of person one can imagine launching the next big thing on the internet", Wales sees O'Dwyer's fight against extradition as another battle between the large television/film industry (Wales' "content industry") and the wider public. Previous battles included the popular movement against two proposed American laws, the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act, also known as PIPA and SOPA, respectively. Actions taken to protest the bills included the blackout of several major websites, including Wikipedia, on 18 January 2012 (see previous Signpost coverage: 16 January, 23 January). Wales called O'Dwyer the "human face" of this war, and warned that "if he's extradited and convicted, he will bear the human cost." (more information in the Guardian; Wales' change.org petition)
Is Wikipedia politically biased?
On 18 June, the Washington Postreported on a study by Northwestern University's Shane Greenstein and the University of Southern California's Feng Zhu, "Collective Intelligence and Neutral Point of View: The Case of Wikipedia", which examined the viability of Linus' Law ("Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow") through the case study of Wikipedia articles on American federal politics. They chose the topic because it would be an area "where Linus' Law would face challenges due to the presence of controversial topics and lack of verified and/or lack of objective information."
The Post claimed that the results showed that "only a handful of [Wikipedia articles] were politically neutral," though the study was positive in their belief that "Wikipedia's entries lack much slant and contain less bias than observed earlier." The pair came to this conclusion by analyzing a decade's worth of Wikipedia articles on American politics. It noted that while a large number of users sought to remove bias from the articles, most articles receive little attention from most users and, more often than not, they retain their political bias, which will often be that of the original contributor. (See also the review of an earlier version of the paper in the Signpost's "Recent research" section: "Given enough eyeballs, do articles become neutral?") Whatever the reason, if these accusations are true then Wikipedia is breaking its own commitment to a neutral point-of-view.
The pair used a technical index to determine the political slant of articles which measure how often one thousand phrases were used. These were taken from all of the remarks made by both Democrats and Republicans, the two main American political parties, in 2005. Essentially, the index uses the logic that an article written from a Democrat's point of view will include phrases like 'civil rights' and 'trade deficit' more often, as opposed to an article with a Republican bias, which would have 'economic growth' and 'illegal immigration'. However, the Post notes that "the vocabulary of partisans has doubtlessly shifted somewhat since 2005."
It is not just recently that accusations have been made of Wikipedia being politically biased. Early versions of Wikipedia were seen as very liberal, while in 2006, the American PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) ran an article stating that, according to conservative blogger Robert Cox of the National Debate, Wikipedia had 'a liberal bias in many hot-button topic entries'. Jimmy Wales replied that this was thanks to Wikipedia's global community, and this tendency was natural when the "international community of English speakers is slightly more liberal than the U.S. population." When asked if he felt this affected the site's goal, he said that "the idea that neutrality can only be achieved if we have some exact demographic matchup to United States of America is preposterous" and that Wikipedia should have a view that would be interpreted as neutral worldwide, not just in the US. (see previous Signpost coverage; more information from PBS)
It should be noted that many of these posts originate from American sources regarding articles on American politics—yet the US political system is much more conservative than that of other English-speaking countries. For example, the national health service supported by all major parties in countries such as the UK and Canada has faced vociferous opposition in the US. Therefore, what may seem neutral in some countries could seem left-wing in the US.
Anita Sarkeesian's Wikipedia biography vandalized: Several news sites reported on the repeated vandalism of Anita Sarkeesian's Wikipedia article after she launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for producing videos analyzing how women are portrayed in video games. The vandalism was part of a broader campaign to attack Sarkeesian due to her criticism of the video game industry. (Wired; Jezebel op-ed)
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